Who could enter a room full of sadness and sorrow and bring peace and comfort? Who could turn a hard conversation about responsibility and mistakes into a dialogue of forgiveness, laughter, and learning? Who could sit down to a family meal and persuade my Mother to not to make me eat the peas? Grace. Grace was her name. Actually, it was Grace Amanda Beard Leatherman, and she was my Grandma. She was born September 21, 1903. Grandma Leatherman, Grandma Grace, taught her family and her community about Grace.
Like many of her generation, the first half of her life was marked by traumatic world events that included World War 1, raising a family through the Great Depression (with no running water in the house!), a miscarriage in the midst of birthing 7 healthy children, World War 2 and the Korean War where she said good-bye to all 4 of her sons who served in various capacities during the Wars and clean-up efforts after they ended. Thankfully, they all returned home safe and sound.
Grandma was the heart of the family, she was wise and wonderful, a caring, solid woman of faith who raised her 5 sons and 2 daughters to be honest, hardworking, faithful servants of Christ. In fact, both of her daughters married pastors which surely was a testament to her faith and dedication to grace-filled living; she passed that gift on to her daughters. Her influence was so strong in the lives of her kids and grandkids that a granddaughter and 3 great-granddaughters are named after her: Karen Grace, Renate Grace, Jillian Grace and Cara Grace.
For her whole family, it was the last half of her life that truly taught us the meaning of Grace. Grandma’s solid, faithful, stoic yet graceful presence took us through a series of tragic losses. Two months before my parents were married (1953), my Mom’s second youngest brother, my Uncle Wayne, was killed in an accidental shooting incident, he was just 17 years old. Grandma gracefully and thoughtfully buried her own son. 5 years later, 1958, a sweet little granddaughter drowned in an outhouse accident during a family camping trip. In 1966, my Grandpa passed after 40 years of loving, courageous marriage. In 1973 my sister was electrocuted in a tragic accident on my Uncle’s farm. And in 1980, my oldest cousin’s wife was killed in a tragic car accident that involved my 2 little cousins who were 8 and 12 at the time; they watched their mother take her last breath.
Through it all, Grandma mothered, grand-mothered, great-grand-mothered and ministered to all of us, her family, by continually reminding us of God’s presence, God’s faithfulness, and God’s Grace that abounds even in, and in-spite-of, the hard times. Without Grandma’s steadfast and grace-filled presence, I’m not sure where this family of now over 100 descendants would be.
There are 4 things about Grace that I learned from my Grandma Grace:
- Grace is free and it is a gift given in the simplest moments and the most complex moments of life. Anyone can give another person Grace just by showing up
- Grace is often found in laughter. Acknowledging mistakes and hard conversations are not always easy. But whether it was some life-lesson we needed to learn or talking my Mother into a pass on the peas, Grandma cunningly used humor to get her point across and teach us some valuable lessons
- Grace-filled living is a choice. Life is sometimes filled with trauma and heartache, but those experiences don’t have define us. We get to choose how we respond to the circumstances of our life, and we can always find something meaningful, if not positive, in every situation if we but look for it
- Grace-filled peace is real when we share it with others. Grandma would walk into a room and simply look with eyes of love at the hurting faces, and you could see the love of Christ in her crooked smile and feel it in the depth of her hug; she carried with her grace-filled peace
My Grandma is now sainted, since 1984, but her legacy of Grace lives on. Through the way she lived her life, her legacy is that she taught us the power of Grace-filled living, resilience and hope. Through Grandma Grace we got a glimpse of what true Grace really looks like in everyday life.